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Full text of "History And Human Relation"

OFFICIAL HISTORY: ITS PITFALLS AND CRITERIA
framework—shaped to a certain assumed structure—
may be recast, so that it is replaced by an edifice based
so^ to speak upon an entirely different ground-plan.
Some people imagine that if a man conducts research
on a particular area of historical happening the effect
will be that one fact here and another fact there will be
corrected ; or that the same story will be told as before,
only it will be told in greater detail; or that the narrative
will merely be amended or supplemented at some
marginal points. The result is far more radical than
this, because total reconstructions are often necessary
when a'certain fact has proved to be pivotal or requires
not merely to be added to the other facts but to be
followed out in the displacements it produces amongst
the rest. One of the high tests of an historian is the
degree to which he possesses the requisite elasticity of
mind, so that he is not a mere compiler adding new
facts to old ones, not a mere prisoner of a current frame-
work of story, but a detective determined not to miss
the clue that may lead to a fresh reconstruction of the
theme and carry the issue to a higher order of thought.
For this reason, when selections of documents are
published on behalf of one government or another, it is
not sufficient simply to read them, or to imagine that
a precis of the printed correspondence will provide us
with the main ribs of the narrative. The compiler—
even when he is not conscious of the fact—will have
been governed by that framework in his selection of the
documents, and though the documents may seem to
prove his case, the argument is really a concealed
argument in a circle. What is needed is detective work

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